As the plane taxis to the runway you feel like you finally have a few hours to relax. The early morning wake up call, the trip to the airport, security and the wait in the terminal are all behind you. Next stop is your holiday destination. Sit back, relax, try and get some sleep perhaps so you feel some semblance of humanity at the other end of the flight. Personally, I enjoy taking off. Feeling the power of the plane before the brakes are released and you hurtle forwards, leaving the ground as if weightless. I don’t watch, as the plane drifts into the clouds I am hopefully drifting into a slumber that will last until the descent starts and adventure awaits. Until a piercing scream breaks the silence that is. There’s a baby on board for its first flight.
We’ve all been on that flight with a screaming baby. Not a great experience is it. The child is screaming because it wants to get off, you want to get off because of the screaming child. A very vicious circle. I like to think I’m a relatively patient person though, and having a young cousin who has been to Tenerife and back twice, I know from my Uncle that taking a baby on its first flight isn’t the most straight forward thing to do. Having not flown until I was in my 20s the screaming was a little deeper in pitch for me. But how about taking someone somewhat older on their first flight? And by somewhat older, I mean someone who is almost 70 years of age.
That was the scenario I found myself in when my grandad and I headed towards the airport in August 2017. Four hours before our flight was due to depart. Planning for the worst is ingrained in me. To the uninitiated, the airport routine can be somewhat of a shock so I decided the best course of action was to get Grandad through it nice and early, before there was any pressure to do so. Everyone always seems in such a rush at security. As if they are being held up. Maybe you should arrive on time. To me that impatient energy can be contagious and I didn’t want us being caught up in it. I hadn’t factored in my Grandad’s lassez-faire approach to life, probably why at 29 I’m quite grey, he still sports a full head of brown hair. I’ve been through the cupboards too, he isn’t hiding any Just For Men anywhere. He sauntered through the entire process laughing and joking with the security guards. A duck taking to water. But today was a day for ducks to fly, not swim.
Our destination was Poland. Poznan our base for the weekend as we would be attending a Speedway Grand Prix and a further Speedway meeting as part of an organised tour. My passion for travel was undoubtedly kindled by trips away to watch Football and Speedway with Grandad as a child. A lorry driver by profession, he would regale me with stories of just about any place within Britain where we happened to be at the time. He’d seen them all before from the cab of his lorry. So sitting in the terminal with three hours to kill, it was nice for me to give a little back, educating him about the airport customs that are commonplace to most people. He was soon up to speed and once our gate flicked across the big screen he was on the move, taking it all in his stride. My only concern now was how the flight itself would be as an experience for him.
“It was actually quite boring.” The response I was given when we touched down in Poland. Grandad had the window seat and spent a lot of the flight discussing Speedway with the man who occupied the aisle seat next to me. I withdrew from the conversational tennis going on across me in flight and buried my head in a book. We had jumped the main hurdle. My plan for the worst approach had stretched to ways home from Poland that didn’t include flying in case the skies didn’t agree with Grandad. I wouldn’t see Poznan railway station from a train carriage for another couple of years. Crisis averted. As for Poznan itself? I’ll cover that in another post. I can’t use all my content in one fell swoop can I…
The trip was something of a pilgrimage. On those weekends away watching Speedway while I was in my teenage years Grandad and I spoke of going to watch a Grand Prix in Poland. This is the pinnacle of the sport. His lack of passport and my fear of flying at the time meant to me it seemed like little more than big talk on both of our parts. It was always mentioned in passing before we finally decided to bite the bullet. My fear of flying was replaced with the fear of being guardian of a teenager in his late sixties let loose in Eastern Europe. There was an air of now or never when we booked and considering the way the world is today I am even more grateful that we took the opportunity while we could. Thankfully the weekend was a great success, so much so that we still intend to do it again post-Covid. While my grandad would be nonplussed if I were to tell him I learnt a big lesson from him that weekend, he taught me that whether you are seven months or seventy years of age, it is never too late to do something for the first time. Even if it does turn out to be “boring.”